Cauvery dispute: Violence mars Bengaluru's image as a business friendly city

Members of Kannada Vatal Chaluvali Paksha, Vatal Nagaraj stage a protest by burning photos of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalithaa over the Cauvery water issue at Kempegowda Bus Terminal in Bengaluru, Karnataka PTI
On Tuesday, Toyota Kirloskar Pvt Ltd, Karnataka's largest investor in the auto sector was to showcase the world "the new Etios" - the sedan designed and built for India. But it couldn't due to the fallout of the Cauvery dispute violence. A day before, over 200 vehicles were damaged and one person died in police firing.

Toyota's factory -- a massive 430 acre plot which was once a hillock that was levelled to attract the Japanese company to outdo competition from Tamil Nadu, is located at Bidadi off the Bengaluru Mysuru highway. Most residential localities and arterial roads on way to the industrial hub had curfew imposed. So, Toyota hopes that it can showcase its new car on Wednesday.

The one day delay may not have caused Toyota any financial losses - it is invested in India for the long term, but the trouble has caused a dent to the image of Bengaluru, India's most cosmopolitan city as a peaceful business destination.

"Bengaluru's image has been hurt. Karnataka's image has been hurt. People have lost confidence in the government that it can handle the law and order situation," said T V Mohandas Pai, a prominent Bengaluru business leader and Chairman of Aarin Capital, a venture capital firm. "However, today the Chief Minister and the Home Minister have come out and said stern action will be taken against those who indulge in violence. There are more police as well on the road. This is good"

The late evening advisory by the US government to its citizens in Bengaluru to keep away from "areas of demonstrations or and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations" has also not helped the city's cause.

Most technology companies such as Infosys and Wipro; multinationals such as Amazon and IBM and startups such as Flipkart, have made the city their home due to its salubrious climate, cosmopolitan culture and ability to get talent locally and global ones to relocate.

"Yesterday employees traveling back from work were affected by the incidents. Some employees even had to stay back in campus as well," said Infosys spokesperson. Biocon, the country's largest Biotechnology company remained unaffected on Monday as the company was shut due to the calendar holiday for Bakrid. The company has decided to remain shut today as well. Its founder and chairperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw has been vocal in asking the government to restore calm.

ALSO READ: Cauvery water row: Violence erupts in Bengaluru, 1 killed in firing

Bosch, the German auto component maker, has declared a holiday for the software entity of the company. "The rest of the departments are working. However, keeping the severity in the condition they have an option to work from home as well," said a spokesperson of Bosch. E-commerce marketplaces such as Flipkart and Amazon have also declared a holiday for all its employees.

TVS Motors, whose two wheeler factory is located in Hosur, in Tamil Nadu and around 40 kms from Bengaluru, has cancelled all the buses that ferry employees from the city. The company has advised its employees to remain at home as a precautionary measure.

The government, aware of the negative impact on businesses, delivered a stern message to protestors saying that anyone indulging in violence will be seriously dealt with. The Bengaluru police tweeted asking citizens to share photos and videos of those involved in violence, so that they can book a criminal case against them.

By afternoon, the city was slowly limping back to normalcy after the BMTC started in a staggered manner to operate buses to different localities.

ALSO READ: All you need to know about the Cauvery water dispute

But not every business leader says that Bengaluru's image will be hit.

"The Cauvery water issue is nothing new, i have seen it since childhood. I do not think that Bengaluru's image will be affected by this. It is the reality of business. This is India, it is a democracy and things like this happen. It is the reality. Incidents like this will continue until there is a permanent solution. In a way this reminds us that India and our city still has a long way to go. Just numbers without any planned growth is not how it is. Water is a critical issue," Ravi Ramu, chief executive of Value and Budget Housing Corporation, that focuses on building low budget homes across India

Pai says the work in technology sector would not suffer due to the disturbance.

"As far as IT companies are concerned it is Bakri Eid holiday as well. They will work some other day and cover up. They know how to handle it, we need not worry about them," he says.


Meanwhile the Karnataka cabinet is holding a crucial meeting on what the state's response should be to the SC directive to release additional Cauvery water to TN. The SC on Monday directed the state to release 12,000 cusecs of water till September 20, dismissing an appeal by Karnataka to reduce the quantum due to the crisis in the state. Four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin have water that is less than half of its capacity due to deficit southwest monsoon and has to manage water for irrigation and drinking to Mandya, Mysuru and Bengaluru till next June. 



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